Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sutherland Scandal

Thomas-Ann Sutherland Abbott

The story of Robert Horatio George Minty (1831-1906) and his common-law relationship with Laura Abbott (1844-1909), while married to her sister, Grace Ann Abbott (1836-1920), will be known to many Sutherland descendants. Grace and Laura were granddaughters of Thomas Sutherland, by his daughter Thomas-Ann (1812-1902) and her husband Richard Abbott (1808-1872). Those who've read Winning Pendergast's Sutherland family history may recall that
"Thomas-Ann (and one wonders who she was named for, with a Thomas already in the family) washed up the dishes one winter’s night, January 29, 1834, put her shawl about her and ran down to the river's edge to meet her lover, Richard Abbott, and they rowed across to St. Clair and were married. " (The aside is Pendergast's, incidentally, though it does make me wonder if the original TS might have been a bit self-infatuated to name both a daughter and a son after himself.)

Apparently Thomas-Ann's daughter Laura inherited a bit of her mother's rebellious spirit, though with more spectacular results. In chapter 31-32 of his book Minty and his Cavalry: A History of the Sabre Brigade and Its Commander (Michigan, 2006) Rand K. Bitter covers the family scandal, and Laura's subsequent efforts to prove (falsely) the legal validity of her relationship. In addition to consulting surviving family members, Bitter has dug into a particularly rich archive, namely U.S. Military records, tracing the sisters' competing claims to a widow's pension, and the interviews and letters collected shortly after Minty's death in an attempt to sort out the mess. While Bitter's primary focus is Minty himself, the family dynamic covered in these chapters is fascinating. (He also includes a genealogy of his descendants, as well as photos of both families that may be of interest to some.)

No comments:

Post a Comment